360 video for Swatch

Late in 2015 a conversation with Swatch management eventually got them convinced to invest into a 360° Video experience on the Freeride World Tour 2016 – for whom I’ve managed TV and Video production since 2009.

The clip reached 400K views and ranked in Youtube’s France Top 3 for brand use of 360 video experiences (1/ Infiniti Europe 2/ Canal+ 3/ Swatch FWT 360 Insights 4/ Maserati 5/ Samsung Mobile – source: Youtube 360° Ads Leaderboard 2016). Pretty cool to be ranked amongst these big guys.

How did it all start? During my years as a pro-kayaker I spent most of my time visiting some incredible and remote rivers around the world. Despite my best effort I often thought my videos couldn’t really convey the feeling of “being there”.

Fast forward to the present day, and all of a sudden there’s this new cool technology called Virtual Reality and 360° video which takes us closer than ever to this dream of teleportation – in short, being able to see and hear what it’s like to be there (in VR litterature it’s called “presence“).

VR toys

My interest for Virtual Reality and 360 video goes back to the release of the Oculus Rift DK2 in 2014. After receiving the headset and getting over the initial Wow effect, I immersed myself in this new media, its new storytelling codes and seemingly endless possibilities. I read a lot about it (with articles ranging from video games developer to hollywood thinkers), subscribed to blogs, listened to the excellent “Voices of VR” podcast and tried many, many apps and videos to get my head around what worked – and what didn’t – in this wild wild territory.

Interestingly my first professional project in 360 video didn’t involve remote locations and exotic adventures, but a place few of us will ever experience first-hand nonetheless, if not laying down unconscious on a table : the operation room.

But back to the Swatch 360° Insights. Shooting for the clip took place during the first Freeride World Tour stop of 2016 in Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra. Besides the obvious adversity of the backcountry terrain, this project was a big challenge for 4 reasons:

  1. We couldn’t know in advance the competition venue and therefore couldn’t scout any location
  2. The storytelling had to be partially adapted to how the event would unfold
  3. The delivery timeline was very tight, with just a few days to have a clip ready before being displayed at the next FWT stop in Chamonix on the Swatch promo truck
  4. The impossibility to mount a 360 rig on a competitor during a run – which anyways I didn’t really want in the clip because of the motion sickness it would induce

The late Estelle Balet is the central character of this clip. Retrospectively I’m very happy we had this opportunity to convey her special relationship to the mountain and to competing before her tragic passing last april. Her softspoken words really bring another dimension to the clip.

For this shoot I decided to use 2 rigs:

  1. The classic 6-gopro rig from freedom 360
  2. A 2-gopro rig with special lenses from Izugar

The audio was recorded on an audiotecnica stereo microphone, plugged into a zoom recorder.

Battery and card management can quickly become an issue in the mountain with subzero temperatures, which clearly favoured the use of the izugar rig. With just 2 cameras it’s much quicker to swap batteries and cards if needed. Also, given the fact that we would have plenty of shots to operate to leave our storytelling options open, and little time in post, we ended up shooting for the most part using the Izugar system. It drastically reduced the media management workload and also potential stitching issues in shots that we could not control 100%.

All-terrain filmer Mathieu Coldebella went out to gather the shots, and after the competition I organised the stitching, graphics and voice-over with Estelle Balet that I wanted in the edit. In post we used Autopano Video pro for the stitching, After effects for the graphics and the Mettle plugins to insert them on the footage. The edit was done on Premiere Pro.

Since it wasn’t possible to capture action upclose due to the nature of the mountain, I instead opted for a sequence using 2D footage spread around the viewer, to give a dizzying and overwhelming effect to the viewer and still bring some action into the clip.

The online version shown above differs slightly from the initial version displayed in Chamonix. The Chamonix version had longer shots and a bit slower pace to really leave time to immerse into each scene through Gear VR headsets. The Youtube version being mostly seen on phones or computers it was shortened and the pace is a bit faster.

Another clip is due to come out in the falls, featuring the four other tour stops after Vallnord (Chamonix, Fieberbrunn, Alaska and Verbier) and some really spectacular shots from these locations.

Swatch Freeride World Tour 2016 – Chamonix Highlights

Not much time to write a full report of yet another long, hard, but fun and rewarding season on the Freeride World Tour 2016 ! with 5 stops this season, plus the Grandvalira Skiers Cup and Junior Freeride World Championship it’s been a long marathon of 7 productions (all live) ran between late january and early april, in various corners of Europe and Alaska. One of the highlight definetely was the Chamonix stop of the FWT, blessed with great conditions and great footage. So here’s a nice nice edit – cherry on the cake of the hard work and dedication of a 50+ team on average to make these productions happen. Every year this team keeps surprising me and I’m proud and honored to be working with such a great bunch of people. Have a look, it’s worth 3 minutes of your time!

Nouria Newman profile clip for Red Bull

http://www.redbull.com/en/stories/1331774231794/see-into-the-mind-of-a-world-class-kayaker

It had been a while since I last worked on a kayaking production! At last I was given the opportunity by directing the profile clip of Red Bull athlete Nouria Newman. I’ve known Nouria since she was 10 or 11 – I was at my peak form in kayaking back then, and impressed already by the commitment and determination of this little girl trying all sort of moves in her kayak, and staying longer in the kayak than anyone else. Almost fifteen years later and after wining world championship medals in pretty much every whitewater discipline you can think of, Nouria’s commitment and passion remain the same!

From the beginning it was clear for both of us that we wouldn’t go for the classic seated interview/biography kind of clip. Nouria’s eclectism in her kayaking and personality had to stand out, and the narrative form of the clip was thought out to do just that.

Sourcing river running material was fairly simple thanks to the Wells brothers @ www.mountainmindcollective.com ; sourcing quality slalom footage was not an option, so I flew to Prague in october to document Nouria’s training on the whitewater course. We started shooting around 6:30 in the morning and the misty atmoshpere and deserted kayak course provided the perfect background for this grey atmosphere I was also after. A top-level athlete’s life isn’t just made of sunny destinations and perfect conditions and this is something we wanted to show in the clip. The cold winter days on the water are also part of the equation ; the morning mist, along with hundreds of cables hanging over the course provided the dark, almost unfriendly touch to visually highlight this idea.

nouria5

nouria4

Later on the sun came out and it was time to have some fun with aquatic, very aesthetic slow-motion shots done with my FS700 and a waterproof bag. I would however strongly advise against swimming in Prague’s slalom course though, as I hit my tibias more times than I can remember.

nouria2

nouria1

nouria3

The final scenes in Paris and the editing were done by Hugo Clouzeau, completing the portrait of a busy and talented Nouria Newman as she ‘s fighting her way to the Olympics next summer in Rio!

Full lenght IBC/Creative Cloud presentation

Here’s the full length presentation that I gave on the Adobe booth last september at the IBC Amsterdam. This presentation isn’t so much about specific features of Premiere Pro or technical aspects of our workflow. As the title say, it’s about “delivering content from remote destinations”.

This case-study talks about our work environnement (from business model to infrastructure and tight deadlines on deliveries) and how, from a production standpoint, Creative Cloud and Premiere Pro fit the bill perfectly for my team over the winter season.

Working on this presentation has also been a good opportunity for me to reflect on our workflow, about what we do and how we do it. A great experience that I hope to repeat in the future.

Thanks again to the Adobe team for their hospitality over this event! There’s a really fine team behind the video products family @ Adobe.

Talking Freeride with Adobe Creative Cloud video

Here’s a short clip made by the Adobe team while I was in Amsterdam last september talking about our workflows on the www.freerideworldtour.com, and how we successfully deliver tons of content using Premiere Pro and other Adobe applications.

Attending the IBC and presenting our work at the Adobe booth was an exciting opportunity as I was able to meet the people behind Premiere Pro and Creative Cloud. I was first impressed by the very warm welcome I received, but also by the consideration given to customers feedback. I mean, being able to talk directly to a core developer about a very specific feature you’d like to see implemented isn’t something you would expect from a mega corporation like Adobe (they’re really huge and Premiere Pro and video products are just a fraction of their activity!).

This barely scratches the surface of what we do from the mountains ; to see the whole 30 min presentation go HERE.

Mennen clip reaches 1.5M views

This year the Red Bull Elements’ production included a special challenge. Besides the usual deliverables we were to produce a clip following Team Mennen, which is a partner of the event. The expectactions on this particular clip were very high since an important communication campaign would follow, aiming to highlight the partnership of Mennen with Red Bull Elements (in line with Mennen sponsoring outdoor athletes like mountain biker Fabien Barel or trail runner Francois d’Haene recently).

All in all the clip has received very positive comments, and the campaign is being very successful with the 1.5 million views mark already achieved (and counting!). This is a great opportunity to display these sometimes confidential sports to such a big audience. The Red Bull Elements has clearly become a major annual rendez-vous for all these sports.

A lot of planning went into the production of the clip, as I knew that exciting visuals would be key to reach the mainstream audience Mennen is targeting with their communication. Another key factor was the length of the clip as we’d have to fit the entire story, and obvioulsy explain the unusual concept of the race within a 2 min 30/ 2 min 45 package. So we knew that there wouldn’t be much room for shots exceeding 2 to 3 seconds and this aspect was fully taken into account during the shooting. Last but not least, the clip was to convey several other aspects and values: the difficulty of the race, the team spirit and camaraderie, and the open mindset of the top athletes involved, namely Vincent Cavard in rowing, François d’Haene in trail running, Aaron Durogati in paragliding and Jordan Sarrou in mountain biking.

A strenuous pre-shooting was completed thanks to a solid team and the fantastic cooperation of these 4 athletes, to get the very specific shots that we knew would be virtually impossible to get on race day. Then on race day a particular focus was put on Team Mennen obviously, with our production coordinator Val Grollemund monitoring the live GPS tracking on the map and communicating info to our 10 cameramen and helicopter dispatched over kilometers and kilometers of trails around Talloires. After the race and a solid 2nd place finish for Team Mennen it was time to enter the edit room and let editor Hugo Clouzeau display his skills.

Well done to everyone – mission accomplished!